||The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (July 2007)|
A missing person is a person who has disappeared and whose status as alive or dead cannot be confirmed as their location and fate is not known. Laws related to missing persons are often complex, since in many jurisdictions, relatives and third parties may not deal with a person's assets until their death is considered proven by law and a formal death certificate issued. The situation, uncertainties, and lack of closure or a funeral resulting when a person goes missing may be extremely painful and long-lasting for family and friends.
A person may be missing due to their own decision, accident, crime, death in a location where they cannot be found (such as at sea), or many other reasons. In some countries, missing persons' photographs are posted on bulletin boards, milk cartons, postcards, and websites, to publicize their description.
People disappear for many reasons. Some individuals choose to disappear alone; most of these soon return. Reasons for non-identification may include:
- To escape domestic abuse, such as child physical abuse, emotional abuse, by a parent(s)/guardian(s)/sibling(s)/spouse.
- Leaving home to live somewhere else under a new identity.
- Becoming the victim of kidnapping.
- Abduction (of a minor) by a non-custodial parent or other relative.
- Seizure by government officials without due process of law.
- Suicide in a remote location or under an assumed name (to spare their families the suicide at home or to allow their deaths to be eventually declared in absentia).
- Victim of murder (body disguised, destroyed, or hidden).
- Mental illness or other ailments such as Alzheimer's Disease can cause someone to become lost or they may not know how to identify themselves due to long-term memory loss that causes them to forget where they live, the identity of family members or relatives, or their own names.
- Death by natural causes (disease) or accident far from home without identification.
- Disappearance to take advantage of better employment or living conditions elsewhere.
- Sold into slavery, serfdom, sexual servitude, or other unfree labour.
- To avoid discovery of a crime or apprehension by law-enforcement authorities. (See also failure to appear.)
- Joining a cult or other religious organization.
- To avoid war or persecution during a genocide.
- To escape famine or natural disaster.
A common misconception is that a person must be absent for at least 24 hours before being legally classed as missing, but this is rarely the case; in instances where there is evidence of violence or of an unusual absence, law enforcement agencies often stress the importance of beginning an investigation promptly.
In most common law jurisdictions a missing person can be declared dead in absentia (or "legally dead") after seven years. This time frame may be reduced in certain cases, such as deaths in major battles or mass disasters such as the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Laws and statistics by country
Royal Canadian Mounted Police missing child statistics for a ten-year period show a total of 60,582 missing children in 2007.
As of December 31, 2011, the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) contained 85,158 active missing person records. Juveniles under the age of 18 account for 37,371 (43.9%) of the records and 9,832 (11.5%) were for adults between the ages of 18 and 20.
During 2011, 678,860 missing person records were entered into NCIC, a decrease of 2.0% from the 692,944 records entered in 2010. Missing person records cleared or canceled during the same period totaled 679,511. Reasons for these removals include a law enforcement agency located the subject, the individual returned home, or the record had to be removed by the entering agency due to a determination that it is invalid.
International statistics and efforts
- AMBER Alert
- Code Adam
- Cold case
- Declared death in absentia
- Forced disappearance
- International child abduction
- List of people who disappeared mysteriously
- Mattie's Call
- Missing Kids Website
- National Missing Children's Day
- Unexplained disappearances
- Unreported missing
- Preston Sparks and Timothy Cox (November 17, 2008). "Missing persons usually found". Augusta Chronicle. Retrieved May 21, 2011.
- "FAQs: Question: Do you need to wait 24 hours before reporting a person missing?". National Missing Persons Coordination Center, Australian Federal Police. Retrieved May 22, 2011.
- "Statistics". Canadian Missing Children Reports Summary For A Ten Year Period. Royal Canadian Mounted Police. 22. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
- "National Crime Information Center". The Federal Bureau of Investigations. U.S. Federal Government, U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved 19 December 2012.
- "NCIC Missing Person and Unidentified Person Statistics for 2007". National Crime Information Center’s (NCIC) Missing Person File (Federal Bureau of Investigations). U.S. Federal Government, U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved 19 December 2012.
- "National Monument to Missing People". Missing Irish People WS (WebSite). MISSING.WS. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
|Look up missing person in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- LostNMissing Inc
- National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs.gov)
- Familylinks.icrc.org Website for people looking for family members missing due to a conflict or natural disaster. International Committee of the Red Cross.
- Black & Missing Foundation website exclusively dedicated to missing Persons of Color
- Data Missing on Missing Children
- Missing persons Inter-Parliamentary Union, International Committee of the Red Cross, 2009
- Missing people directory in the UK